Seismicity at Fuego, Pacaya, Izalco, and San Cristobal Volcanoes, Central America, 1973–1974

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Active Volcano, Predominant Frequency, Volcanic Tremor, Volcanic Earthquake, Cocos Plate

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Seismic data collected at four volcanoes in Central America during 1973 and 1974 indicate three sources of seismicity: regional earthquakes with hypocentral distances greater than 80 km, earthquakes within 40 km of each volcano, and seismic activity originating at the volcanoes due to eruptive processes. Regional earthquakes generated by the underthrusting and subduction of the Cocos Plate beneath the Caribbean Plate are the most prominent seismic feature in Central America. Earthquakes in the vicinity of the volcanoes occur on faults that appear to be related to volcano formation. Faulting near Fuego and Pacaya volcanoes in Guatemala is more complex due to motion on a major E-W striking transform plate boundary 40 km north of the volcanoes. Volcanic activity produces different kinds of seismic signatures. Shallow tectonic or A-type events originate on nearby faults and occur both singly and in swarms. There are typically from 0 to 6 A-type events per day withb value of about 1.3. At very shallow depths beneath Pacaya, Izalco, and San Cristobal large numbers of low-frequency or B-type events are recorded with predominant frequencies between 2.5 and 4.5 Hz and withb values of 1.7 to 2.9. The relative number of B-type events appears to be related to the eruptive states of the volcanoes; the more active volcanoes have higher levels of seismicity. At Fuego Volcano, however, low-frequency events have unusually long codas and appear to be similar to tremor. High-amplitude volcanic tremor is recorded at Fuego, Pacaya, and San Cristobal during eruptive periods. Large explosion earthquakes at Fuego are well recorded at five stations and yield information on near-surface seismic wave velocities (α=3.0±0.2 km/sec.).

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Bulletin Volcanologique, v. 46, issue 3, p. 283-297